New York Yankees 2020 Season Preview: Mike Ford

New York Yankees, Mike Ford

After breaking out for the New York Yankees in 2019, first-baseman Mike Ford is ready for more in 2020.

With the extent of injuries to the team, Ford was signed to a major-league deal in April and had a lot of success in his limited time spent up. He hit .259 with 12 home runs and 25 RBIs in just 143 at-bats. His slugging was .559, and his OPS was an impressive .909.

Ford has an incredible story, and it’s impressive that he’s made it this far. In 2013, he was the Ivy League Player of the Year as a pitcher and also hit .320 in the process. Despite that, he went undrafted, and the Yankees signed him to a deal. He slowly climbed the ranks and was better every year. In 2019 when he wasn’t with the Yankees, he hit over .300 with 23 home runs for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

2020 Expectations:

It’s increasingly likely that Mike Ford will break camp with the Yankees and have a significant role on the team.

Luke Voit is expected to start at first base, but Ford will likely see his name in there quite often. Even when he isn’t starting, his lefty power makes him valuable as a pinch-hitter or DH dependent on match-ups. Miguel Andujar will also be playing a little first base and will be a frequent DH option, but with the roster size now expanded to 26 players, it shouldn’t be a problem.

If Ford can provide the Yankees in 2020 what he did in 2019, that’d be great. His stats are trending upward and he could be a valuable member of the team for years to come.

Everybody expects the New York Mets to contend, especially their manager

After a rather tumultuous offseason, Luis Rojas is the man in charge of leading the New York Mets. That’s a positive from many angles, but most notably, from the familiarity point of view. He has been working with the team for several years now, has loads of baseball knowledge and even managed some of the team’s stars on their way through the minors.

Upon arriving to spring training, Rojas was, according to Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News, concentrating on one subject in his encounter with the media: leading the Mets to the playoffs.

“We expect to be a contender,” Rojas said on Tuesday. “We’re going to be in a tough division and we’re going to face tough teams this season in our schedule and we know that. We feel that we’re built to win.”

The Mets have to share the National League East with three other contenders: the World Champions Washington Nationals, the powerful Atlanta Braves and the up-and-coming Philadelphia Phillies. The Miami Marlins complete the group.

Rojas knows the Mets to perfection

Yet Rojas is confident that his players are talented enough to overcome the adversity. He takes pride on knowing the Mets’ roster, its strengths and weaknesses. “I know the guys pretty well and the guys know me back,” he said.

Today, the manager planned to have a team meeting with the full squad. The Mets’ position players reported to camp and joined pitchers and catchers: they arrived on Monday.

He confirmed Jacob deGrom as the opening day starter for the Mets but provided very little details about the rest of the rotation. It should be pointed out that one of Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha will have to pitch out of the bullpen. Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman’s spots should be safe.

“It probably won’t be a surprise that Jake is probably on Opening Day,” Rojas said. “But we’re not defining roles yet of 2, 3, 4, 5 or sixth starter. We’re not there yet. We’re going to sit back and have fun watching these guys pitch in spring training.”

Rojas said he is prepared to handle difficult decisions and conversations. “First of all, the No. 1 thing for me is communication. Second thing is trust and third is accountability,” the Mets’ skipper said. “I know if we hit those on the nose, those three, and the guys like I mentioned already, they know me well, I think that’s going to lead to having any type of conversation and being accountable for any kind of action that happens out there.”

New York Giants GM Could Potentially Trade Back In Draft

Should the New York Giants trade back in the 2020 NFL Draft? For much of the season the eyes of the fanbase were on Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young, who is said to be the best defensive player in the draft and is expected to go after LSU quaterback Joe Burrow, but the Giants have seemingly missed their chance to draft Young thanks to falling from the second pick to the fourth because of their wins towards the end of the season.

As such, it’s not clear who the Giants will pick and whether they should make a selection at this spot at all – sure, there are prospects worth looking at. Isaiah Simmons is widely considered an alternative to Young that could play with more versatility, and the offensive line could use an upgrade at the tackle position from a player such as Georgia’s Andrew Thomas.

But the Giants could also gain a chance to have more picks, or potentially even picks and a valuable player, if they traded back and sent the fourth pick elsewhere. It doesn’t fit with the history of moves that Dave Gettleman has made in the draft – he hasn’t traded back before, notably – but that seemingly doesn’t rule out a deal happening this time.

According to Ralph Vacchiano, Gettleman is open to the idea of moving back this year.

He “seems more open to the idea” of trading back this year — even in the first round, according to a source familiar with the Giants thinking. And a team source, while saying it’s all wildly premature and there have been no actual trade discussions, acknowledged a rare trade back in the first round can’t be ruled out.

It still remains to be seen who the Giants would make a deal with if they did decide to shop the fourth overall pick, as well as just how far back they would end up moving. But with the one player that was perhaps the most clear cut option in the draft for the Giants likely being taken by Washington, or taken at number three overall if not by the Redskins, a deal is definitely something worth at least looking at.

Giants’ Dave Gettleman might do something he’s never done in 2020

New York Giants, Dave Gettleman

When Dave Gettleman traded with the New York Jets for Leonard Williams, he cost the New York Giants a high third-round pick and a fourth-rounder, given they re-sign him before the new league year.

With Williams reportedly looking for a $15 million per season deal, the reality of signing him is becoming bleaker, however, the draft capital Gettleman spent cannot be regained. If Williams walks, they will likely earn a pick in the mid-90s as a compensatory selection, but trading back in the draft would inject more draft capital into their holdings.

SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano stated:

He “seems more open to the idea” of trading back this year — even in the first round, according to a source familiar with the Giants thinking. And a team source, while saying it’s all wildly premature and there have been no actual trade discussions, acknowledged a rare trade back in the first round can’t be ruled out.

The New York Giants need to be strategic:

Depending on how the Giants approach free agency will drastically alter their draft plans, as they have the option of selecting Clemson standout defender Isaiah Simmons or trading back and collecting picks. The offensive line needs allocations, and so does the defense, but Gettleman has plenty of ammo to utilize in the coming months.

Gettleman must be open to doing something he’s never done before in the draft, and that’s trading back. With two quarterback hungry teams sitting right behind Big Blue (Miami Dolphins & Los Angeles Chargers), the Giants are in a prime position to trade back and still land a player like Simmons.

A little luck will be needed to perfect their strategy, but they may walk away with a top defender and tackle in the first round. An article I wrote recently detailed how the Giants can add a second-round pick and combined their existing pick to move into the first round and draft a tackle prospect like Mekhi Becton.

 

Yankees’ Aaron Boone considers Hinch/Cora friends despite cheating

New York Yankees, Aaron boone

Several New York Yankees‘ players have opened up about the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, and manager Aaron Boone was next in the long line of people willing to share their opinion on the matter.

Aside from banging on trash cans and a camera in center field used for deciphering pitches, the Astros were accused of using buzzers to indicate pitch types and hold an advantage. Recent reports have suggested that Houston may have used their tactics during the World Series and postseason in 2019.

Earlier in the day, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez through Jose Altuve under the bus:

“I can tell you this, if I hit a home run to send my team to the World Series, they can rip off my pants. They can rip off anything,” Sanchez stated regarding Altuve’s 2019 ALCS home run in game 6.

Boone, on the other hand, took a more vague approach to his answers:

“That certainly one of those great unknowns,” Boone said. “Certainly, I’ve spent time, as I’m sure a lot of people have, wondering all the things that could have potentially been going on.”

He’s confident, though, that other teams will shy away from using these same tactics:

“Hopefully, as an industry, we’re just able to get better at policing things behind the scenes where this doesn’t happen,” he said. “I am confident that we will continue to get better and better.”

While Boone doesn’t condone any of the actions taken by the Astors or Red Sox, he still considers some of them friends:

“Look, those are still guys I consider friends,” Boone said. “I’ve struggled, like I’m sure a lot of people have, with making sense of it all and trying to wrestle with my emotions and in a way get some clarity. I don’t think you ever totally get there and that’s OK. I think as human beings, we all fall down, we all fall short. None of us are perfect. Hopefully I treat people with the grace that would reflect that but it’s been a little bit of a struggle for me in how I make sense of it.”

 

New York Mets: Noah Syndergaard’s Renewed Slider Confidence

New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard, yankees

New York Mets starter Noah Syndergaard did not live up to his Cy Young aspirations in 2019, and his struggle to command his wipeout slider contributed to the struggles. His once-dominant strikeout pitch saw a dip in usage and velocity, but he already feels the slider has returned.

From 2016-18, Syndergaard threw his slider about 20 percent of the time, and it sat around 91-93 mph. The new, slicker baseballs may have played a role in the inconsistency of his slider. During the last month of the season, Syndergaard saw the velocity increase, and he said the slider has gotten up to 93 so far.

Nearly Unhittable

The combination of a 98-100 mph fastball with the close to the mid-90s slider is a devastating combo. It would be enough for most pitchers to become a closer. Syndergaard also brings a changeup equal to Marcus Stroman’s sinker along with a curveball he still mixes in.

The sky is the limit for Syndergaard because of the four pitches he features. Each one is an above-average pitch, at worst. Syndergaard’s new success with his changeup allowed him to get by when his slider struggled. When both pitchers were working, we saw how dominant Syndergaard is. His slider was at his best during July and early August, and it is no coincidence that was the best stretch of his season.

New York Mets don’t want Marisnick or Davis to feel unwelcome due to sign-stealing scandal

New York Mets trade for Jake Marisknick

The Houston Astros 2017 sign-stealing scandal has been the talk of the offseason. The team used technological equipment to decode opposing squads’ signs and relayed them in real-time to their batters while banging a trash can. They were caught and MLB gave away suspensions and fines. Even the New York Mets were splashed by the aftermath, given that they had to part ways with their newly-appointed manager Carlos Beltran because he was involved in the scheme back then.

Mike Puma of the New York Post wrote that the Mets outlined a plan to deal with the situation. More specifically, they intend to deal with those former Astros who were involved in the scheme.

Infielder/outfielder J.D. Davis and center fielder Jake Marisnick played for the Astros in that 2017 season when they won the World Series. However, the Mets don’t want either one of them to feel unwelcome in the clubhouse.

There will not be a witch hunt in the Mets

Michael Conforto, the team’s star right fielder, will not be heading a witch hunt over his now-teammates.

“Our involvement with it was Carlos [Beltran] and we have kind of moved on from that, but I don’t see us dwelling on that at all,” Conforto said Tuesday to the Post. “I think J.D. and Jake, they are our guys now and moving forward they are going to be part of a winning season this year.”

“There’s not going to be any animosity toward them. When you are in a team setting, any of these guys that are in here now they are our guys and that’s the way winning teams are. They bring their guys in and we’re one winning group. They will probably talk about it, but there won’t be anything more from there.”

When the Mets appointed Beltran, the scandal hadn’t yet arrived to the main headlines. He was named in MLB’s report, and therefore, the team had to act.

“There is a line that definitely shouldn’t be crossed, and Carlos’ involvement with that is what it is, and moving forward I think it’s best we just focus on us and the season,” Conforto said.

Betances’ take

Dellin Betances played against those Houston Astros in 2017, in the American League Championship Series. He made it clear that he doesn’t need an explanation from Davis or Marisnick.

“After hearing everything that happened, I think as a team we knew that stuff was going on, we just weren’t sure what it was,” Betances said. “It definitely sucks looking back on it, but to spend too much time on it, I think it’s not fair to the guys I am here with now. I am looking forward to the 2020 season with the Mets, so I don’t think I am going to harp too much on that.”

New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez takes shot at Jose Altuve

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training on Wednesday, it was only a matter of time before New York Yankees players opened up about the cheating scandal that plagued the offseason.

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez had a few select words, tailored explicitly towards Jose Altuve and his ALCS-winning home run and refusal to take off his shirt as he approached home plate.

Altuve has been the focal point for a buzzer-driven narrative that has sparked concern. Beyond having a camera in center field to decipher pitch signs, having a buzzer to indicate off-speed balls takes things to a different level.

Clearly, Sanchez, who struggled during the postseason after suffering another groin injury earlier on in the season, was frustrated at the Astros and Altuve for their transgressions.

Moving forward, the game of baseball should be restored to its former self, void of cheating and coaches who condone this type of disrespect.

The past few days have resulted in Yankee players speaking out on the matter. Chad Green, CC Sabathia, and even the quiet Masahiro Tanaka expressed their displeasure.

“I think that’s your initial reaction,” Green said Friday afternoon, via Newsday. “I think anybody would be upset about it a little bit. But you have to move forward. It’s in the past.”

“It’s obviously going to be tough, just knowing what could have been in ’17,” Green said. “But that’s a tough game to play — what could have been, what should have happened, stuff like that . . . We haven’t honestly talked about it too much. I’ve just been around [the complex] for a few days. I think everybody’s kind of moving forward. It’s kind of in the past, for the most part. But I’m sure the conversation’s going to be brought up at some point.”

Expect to see more players express their opinions in the coming days.

 

New York Mets: Dellin Betances is ready to move on from his injury issues

New York Yankees, Dellin Betances

Dellin Betances was maybe the New York Mets‘ most important free agent signing of the offseason. Sure, if Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha work out, that sentence could be subject for reconsideration, but right now, the bullpen needed someone with Betances’ pedigree and ability.

The former Yankee signed on Christmas Eve, and when he did it, Carlos Beltran (his close friend) was supposed to be his manager. A couple of months later, that’s no longer the case but Betances is still highly commited to the Mets.

“I felt bad at the time for him,” Betances said to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. “Obviously, I gave him his space. He has a beautiful family that’s helped him through this process. For me, I’m just excited for our new manager, Luis Rojas. I think a lot of our players are excited about him.”

He doesn’t want to concentrate on “what could have been” with Beltran. Instead, he needs to show that he will be fully healthy and cleared to dominate opposing teams from opening day. He is well on his way to do it.

The Mets’ star reliever is already throwing bullpens

By now, Betances has thrown multiple bullpen sessions. The most recent one was yesterday. Barring something unexpected, he will be ready to take the hill in the first day of the season. That wasn’t a given back in September when he suffered a partial Achilles tear.

Thankfully, it was that: partial. That gave him plenty of time to recover in time. Before that, Betances had missed almost all of the 2019 season with shoulder issues.

Betances’ offseason was full of ankle exercises to strengthen the area. “I’m confident,” he said. “I put in a lot of work this offseason, a lot of hours to make sure that I came into camp ready. I feel good at this point.”

From 2014 to 2018 Betances was arguably the best and most consistently dominant reliever in the American League. During that timeframe he was third in K/9 (14.63) eight in ERA (2.22) fourth in FIP (2.26) second in fWAR (11.2) and first in strikeouts (607.)

If healthy, he should set up for closer Edwin Diaz for the New York Mets, joining a seemingly formidable bullpen alongside Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman and whoever loses the fifth starter battle.

New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole tosses first bullpen session (WATCH)

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

The New York Yankees‘ $324 million dollar man has thrown his first pitching Pinstripes as catchers and pitchers reported to spring training on Wednesday.

In what seems to be an extremely optimistic season for the Bombers, Cole brings a bevy of skills and talents to New York, his childhood club.

Cole had a stellar 2019 season with the Houston Astros, racking up 326 strikeouts and a 2.50 ERA, both career-highs in a season that brought him to the World Series. Having pitched in two consecutive WS, Cole could reach a third in 2020, especially with a starting pitching rotation that includes Luis Severino, James Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka.

One of the big reasons Gerrit accepted the Yankees’ bid was due to their advancements in technology. Cole is an intelligent person, looking to improve his game with slight tweaks and twists. The computers and cameras set up behind Cole will give the Yankees plenty of knowledge into how they can help him improve and make the most of the $35 million per season he is earning.

Moving forward, I anticipate new pitching coach, Matt Blake, to have a significant impression on one of the game’s best pitchers. His ability to develop star pitchers is another reason Cole is wearing Pinstripes.

Nonetheless, let’s enjoy watching Cole sling the ball with a big Yankees logo on his chest for a little while.